Jeremy Hill Is Going Pro, As He Should

Two tweets from LSU star running back Jeremy Hill…

 

 

Hill’s announcement that he’s turning pro puts to bed a week’s worth of speculation that he would be sticking around to pair with superstar recruit Leonard Fournette to give LSU one of the greatest tailback tandems in college football history. The speculation got so thick that Gannette Louisiana LSU beat writer Glenn Guilbeau wrote up a piece Tuesday about how Hill had informed sources close to the football program that he was coming back.

There was also a report Thursday to the effect that Hill was trying to recruit LSU offensive linemen La’El Collins and Trai Turner to return for another year to open up holes for him.

Turner has already joined Hill in declaring for the NFL draft today, and it’s a matter of time before Collins does as well.

This is what major college football looks like circa 2014. As evidence of how widespread the departures to the NFL are, see Alabama – where defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan and safety Vinny Sunseri are both headed for the NFL despite draft prospects just as questionable as Collins’ and Turner’s.

But while Collins and Turner could definitely use another year, in Hill’s case entering the draft is a no-brainer – and last week’s speculation was wishful thinking at best.

Hill is the best running back LSU has had since Kevin Faulk, if not Charlie Alexander. He has virtually everything NFL teams are looking for, and his size and strength indicate that he might be one of those rare backs who can last in the NFL longer than the typical 5-6 years a player at that position can expect.. More, NFL scouts are sticklers for how much wear and tear college running backs have on them, as it’s thought there is a finite number of rushing attempts a has in him before he starts to lose his acceleration and effectiveness. There are exceptions to that rule, of course, but it’s effective enough that running backs with an enormous workload in college often find themselves losing steam as draft prospects. Last year Hill had just over 200 carries in 12 games, which is a stunningly small workload for a feature back such as he is.

And while losing Collins and Turner hurts LSU – the team’s depth on the offensive line is a real problem, though sophomores Ethan Pocic and John Boutte have a chance to be excellent replacements, respectively, plus a new line coach should be announced this week as a replacement for Greg Studrawa, who was fired last week – at running back the Tigers really have a glut of players. Last year Terrence Magee was the team’s second-leading rusher with 626 yards and eight touchdowns – on only 86 carries. That’s a shiny 7.3 yard average, and it’s almost enough to lament Magee not getting the ball more.

What’s more, Alfred Blue (71 carries, 343 yards, 4.8 average) and Kenny Hilliards (68 carries, 310 yards, 4.6 average, seven touchdowns) both have another year of eligibility. With Hill returning and Fournette on the way in, it barely made sense for either to return. Now, one or both could return – and in their careers both Blue and Hillard have had moments where they’ve been just as dangerous as Hill. Blue, in particular, was on the verge of stardom in the first couple of games of the 2012 season before he blew his knee out and opened the door for Hill. He’s currently rated the #20 running back in the NFL draft for 2014, which makes him iffy as to whether he’ll get drafted. Now he has an opportunity to show he’s fully recovered from that knee injury after a good-but-not-up-to-his-standard 2013 season; he had ability to break long runs before the injury but his long run last year was only 17 yards.

So LSU will be fine, though it would be more exciting to have Hill back. And he has to grab the opportunity to make the big money when he can.

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